Extroverts navigate Alzheimer's better than introverts – but it has a downside

Web Desk
Extroverts navigate Alzheimers better than introverts – but it has a downside

Alzheimer's, a condition potentially more prevalent than perceived, unveils a complex relationship with personality traits, hindering accurate diagnoses, according to a study from the University of California and Northwestern University in Canada. 

Conscientious, extroverted individuals with a positive mindset appear less likely to receive a dementia diagnosis, despite exhibiting brain hallmarks of the disease, prompting scientists to explore the intriguing dynamics between personality and cognitive health.

Dr Emorie Beck, the study's first author, expressed surprise at the findings, emphasising the disparity between personality traits' predictive impact on cognitive tests and their lack of correlation with pathological brain changes associated with dementia. 

While previous studies indicated a discrepancy in Alzheimer's diagnoses—only 10% of individuals over 65 were diagnosed, yet 50% showed brain signs postmortem—the recent research sheds light on the potential influence of personality in navigating symptoms.

Examining eight studies involving 44,000 participants, researchers discovered a significant correlation between personality traits and dementia diagnoses. 

A 10% increase in conscientiousness, characterised by carefulness, corresponded to a 14% lower likelihood of receiving a dementia diagnosis. Conversely, a 10% rise in neuroticism, linked to emotional instability, revealed a 12% higher chance of diagnosis.

The implications of these findings are profound, challenging the conventional approach to dementia screening. Staying socially engaged and embracing life may mitigate cognitive decline, suggesting that not everyone requires brain screening for dementia. 

The study hints at a potential avenue for enhancing neuroplasticity—the brain's ability to rewire itself—which may be boosted by positive mindsets and openness to new experiences.

Dr Beck noted that personality could play a crucial role in the cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer's, emphasising the importance of a holistic perspective. 

Individuals exhibiting traits such as conscientiousness, positivity, and sociability may unknowingly adopt healthier lifestyles, reducing the overall risk of dementia.

The researchers remain uncertain about the exact mechanisms behind the protective influence of personality traits but speculate that enhanced neuroplasticity and healthier living habits may be contributing factors. 

As the study challenges conventional wisdom, the team plans to delve deeper into understanding individuals with significant Alzheimer's markers in the brain yet minimal observable symptoms.

With an estimated 944,000 people living with dementia in Britain, the majority facing Alzheimer's, this research underscores the urgency of unravelling the complexities surrounding Alzheimer's diagnosis and the role of personality traits in shaping cognitive outcomes.